Next year, NASCAR team Hendrick Motorsports plans to bring a Next Gen stock car to the 24 Hours of Le Mans. It’s one of the strangest projects in racing history, one that even those working on the project don’t have a full grasp of yet. But we know it will be a standard car and we know it will race at Le Mans, so we can start making some assumptions about what it will look like. Existing simulators with both the car and the track offer a taste of how that could go.
In a video for CXC Simulations, former IndyCar driver and current announcer Townsend Bell spent an hour testing a Next Gen car at the Circuit de la Sarthe in a simulator to get a better idea of how the race will go. expired. What he discovered was something strange: not necessarily a car that is too slow to race in the 24 Hours of Le Mans, but a car that is fast in such different ways that it will be a challenge for those who run in and against the car racing.
As Bell describes, the strange thing about the stock car isn’t so much that it’s about 15 seconds slower than a traditional car, but the way it’s slow. Big power still means big speed on the bigger straights. But with more weight and less downforce than anything it’s bumped into in the 24-hour classic, mid-corner speeds are significantly slower, both in low-speed and high-speed corners. Add the sheer size of the car to the equation and the stock car will be hard to pass for leading prototypes.
That problem is compounded by the other one coming to Le Mans in 2023: a vast collection of new works prototypes from Ferrari, Porsche, Peugeot, Cadillac and others. A significantly more competitive level of competition at the highest level means even more cars with the greatest possible speed difference in corners compared to the standard car. If someone catches the stock car while racing for position, the point on a lap where the lead car catches it will change their speed significantly on that lap. That makes the stock car an important factor in the race, even if Hendrick Motorsports itself isn’t racing against anything else.
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